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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pope receives American Inter-religious Symposium

At 11:30am today, in the Consistory Hall at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience those who are participating in the Symposium sponsored by the Organization of the American States and the Institute for Inter-religious Dialogue in Buenos Aires.  The theme of this gathering is America in Dialogue - Our Common Home, and it is taking place at the Augustinianum in Rome from September 7 to 8, 2016.

Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
to members of the Organization of American States
and the Institute for Inter-religious Dialogue

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am happy to welcome you all today, participants in this first meeting: America in dialogue - Our common home.  I thank the Organization of American States and the Institute for Inter-religious Dialogue of Buenos Aires for their efforts to make this event a reality, in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.  I know that these are working together on a plan for establishing and Institute for Dialogue which will involve the entire American continent.  Working together is a praiseworthy initiative and I invite you to continue in this effort not only for the good of America but for that of the entire world.

This first encounter has focused on the study of the Encyclical Laudato Si'.  In this document, I wanted to draw attention to the importance of love, respect and taking care of our common home.  We cannot help but admire the beauty and harmony that exists in all of creation; a gift that God gives to us so that we can discover and contemplate him in and through his work.  It is important that we work toward an integral ecology, in which respect for all creatures values the wealth contained in each one of them and places human beings at the summit of creation.

Religions hold a very important role in this task of promoting care and respect for the environment, above all in the sphere of comprehensive ecology.  Faith in God leads us to recognize in his creation, the fruit of his love for us, and calls us to care for and protect nature.  For this reason, religions must promote real education, at all levels, that will help to spread an attitude of responsibility and attention to caring for our world; and, in a special way, to protect, promote and defend human rights (cf LS, 201).  For example, it would be an interesting exercise to have all your participants consider how these principles have been incorporated in their own countries, in their cities, in their own environments, according to their own religious beliefs, in their religious communities, in their schools.  I believe that we are still at the level of school nests in this regard.  In other words, incorporate responsibility so that ecology becomes not merely a subject but truly a part of consciousness in an integrated approach to education.

Our religious traditions are a necessary source of inspiration in order to foster a culture of encounter.  Inter-religious cooperation is fundamental, based on the promotion of sincere and respectful dialogue.  If reciprocal respect does not exist, there can be no inter-religious dialogue.  I remember in my city, when I was a boy, a priest was sent to burn the tents of evangelists, and thank God they survived; if there is no reciprocal respect, there can be no inter-religious dialogue, it is the first step that allows us to walk together and to face the challenges.  This dialogue is founded on the identity and mutual confidence that exists when we are able to recognize others as gifts from God and to accept the truth that everyone has something to say.  Others have something to say.  Each encounter with the other is a small seed that is planted; if it is watered regularly and treated with respect, based on truth, it will grow into a healthy tree, bearing much fruit, where everyone can find shelter and food, and no one will be excluded, and in this, everyone takes part in a common project, united in our efforts and in our aspirations.

On this journey of dialogue, we witness the goodness of God, who has given us life; this is sacred and should be respected, not belittled.  The believer is a defender of creation and of life, he cannot remain silent or passive in the face of so many rights being ignored or denied with impunity; men and women of faith are called to defend life at all its stages, physical integrity and fundamental freedoms such as freedom of conscience, of thought, of expression and of religion.  This is one of our duties, because we believe that God is the artisan of all creation and we are instruments in his hands to ensure that all men and women are respected, treated with dignity and afforded their rights, so that they can develop as persons.

The world is constantly watching us, believers, to see what we believe about our common home and about human rights; in addition, we are asked to cooperate among ourselves and with all men and women of good will, who do not profess any religion, in order to provide effective answers to the many scourges that our world faces, such as war and hunger, the suffering that is faced by millions of people, the environmental crisis, violence, corruption and moral degradation, the crisis of the family, the economy and, above all, the lack of hope.  Today's world is suffering and needs our cooperative support, it is asking for this help.  Do you realize that this is light years away from any concept of proselytizing?

In addition, we note with pain that sometimes the name of religion is used to commit atrocities, such as terrorism, and to sow fear and violence and, as a result, religions are portrayed as being responsible for the evil that surrounds us.  We must together condemn such abominable actions definitively and distance ourselves from everything that can poison our minds, or divide and destroy our coexistence; in order to demonstrate the positive inherent values in our religious traditions toward strong contributions that bring hope.  For this reason, meetings such as this one are important.  We must share our pains as well as our hopes in order to walk together, taking care of each other and of creation, defending and promoting the common good.  How good it would be if we could leave the world a better place than when we found it.  That would be nice, in a dialogue that took place a few years ago, someone who was enthusiastic about caring for our common home said: we must leave our children a better world.  And the other asked: And will there be children to enjoy it?

Lastly, this meeting is taking place during a year dedicated to the Jubilee of Mercy; this is a universal value that involves both believers and those who do not believe, for the merciful love of God knows no limits: neither of culture, race, language or religion; it embraces all those who are suffering in body and in spirit.  Moreover, the love of God enwraps all of creation; and we believers have a responsibility to defend it, nurture it and heal it if necessary.  May this Jubilee Year be an occasion for us to open further opportunities for dialogue, to reach out to those of our brothers and sisters who are suffering, and to make of our common house, a home where everyone has a place and no one is excluded or denied.  Every human being is the greatest gift that God can give us.

I invite you to work and to promote initiatives together, so that together we become more and more aware of our common home and strive to protect it, to build a world that is increasingly human, where no one is left out and where everyone is needed.  And let us ask God to bless us all.
(Original text in Spanish)
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